Chapter Twenty Two
Chapter Twenty Two
We awoke at daybreak to a loud knock at the door. Conall was up with his sword in hand before the second knock came. On opening the door stood a small grey-haired man no higher than his chest.
“Ock, Andrew what’s amiss?” exclaimed Conall lowering his sword.
“Milord Agnes sent me. We need ta talk.”
“The Cailleach, but we only saw her yesterday.” I interjected pulling the sheet up to my chin.
Andrew raised an eyebrow at me. “Milady tis a pleasure ta meet ye.” he said with a bow. Conall moved aside to let him in before closing the door.
“Andrew why has Agnes sent ye?”
Andrew looked a little uncomfortable and tottered from one foot to the other, giving Conall a side glance.
“Ye can talk in front of Lady Morgan, whatever ye have to say.”
Andrew stilled his feet then. “Agnes received news the Bruce has bin kidnapped by Nuckelavee’s men. He went to his castle on Rathlin, an disappeared during tha night.”
“Hang on, are you talking about Robert the Bruce?” I blurted. This was confusing as I knew Robert the Bruce lived in the fifteenth century and we were currently in the eighteenth century.
“Aye that is so milady.” Conall gave me a stern look, meaning be quiet let the man speak.
“Andrew how does she ken it was Nuckelavee’s men that took the Bruce?”
“Well, she kens he had bin taken, but only tha noo who took him an where he be.”
“An that is where?” asked Conall
“Oweynagolman, tis a sea cave beneath tha castle.”
“Is Agnes sure tis Oweynagolman tha he is being held?”
“Aye, Agnes wasnae sure until she heard that Brollachans ha been seen in the area.”
The mention of Nuckelavee had our attention. “Agnes does nay interfere with what has past, and Nuckelavee has nay before attempted ta change history. Until now.” Andrew added.
“Does Agnes want me ta save the Bruce then?” Conall asked folding his arms at his chest. Relaxed as if this was an everyday occurrence.
“Aye, that she does Conall, she kens ye are tha only one that can wi ye havin tha travel pendant. If’n ye are successful in saving tha Bruce ye can be back in no time. I can stay with milady while ye are gone.”
“No bloody way! You are not leaving me behind Conall Sutherland. I’m coming with you.” I yelled getting to my feet pulling the sheet with me.
Conall rolled his eyes. He could fight the lass on this but was it worth it? he didn’t think so. He also couldn’t leave her, there was no way that Andrew could stave off any number of Brollachans that came looking. He had no choice she had to come with him. “Aye lass ye can come. Ye might be useful.”
I rolled my eyes and tutted at him, as if he had a choice…not. I wasn’t looking forward to time shifting again. The feelings of it were unpleasant, even though it only last minutes. I was not however, going to sit in this hovel of a room, while Conall was off saving the Bruce.
I had read much about the Bruce and the history of him, so the excitement of actually meeting him, I was definitely not going to miss out on. Not that I could tell anyone about it. Except for Ula and Sloane, and as much as I appreciated the offer of Andrew to stay with me while Conall was away, it was not going to happen.
“Andrew I’ll no leave from here. Tell Agnes we are heading to Corriekinloch. It’ll be a better place ta be leaving from. Do ye have a date and year fer me Andrew?”
“Aye milord. Agnes thinks that it will be easier towards the end of winter. She suggests tha 14th February 1306.” Andrew nervously shifted his feet again. “Conall, Agnes said centre ye stride at fifty-five yards.” Then reaching out to clasp Conall’s arm he said. “I wish ye well on ye venture. Good day to ye milady.” quickly bowing before disappearing out the door.
Conall wasn’t sure what Andrew meant by centre ye stride at fifty-five yards. An odd message to be sure. He wasn’t happy about having to detour from getting Morgan to the stones, to send the pendant and box home. Nonetheless if Agnes has asked this of him he could not turn her down.
He thought for a moment about meeting one of his hero’s, none other than the Bruce. There had been many a time he had sat around the fire with his brothers while his father told battle stories of him. Haig would swing his arms as if he himself were in the battle, recounting his bravery, while we held our breaths and cheering when the Bruce had slashed down his enemies and won the day.
Conall seemed to be lost in thought. I couldn’t tell whether he was relishing the idea of saving the Bruce or not. “So, we are travelling through time again, have you met the Bruce before? Why are we leaving from that other place you mentioned and not from here?”
“Nay I haven’t and we canna take saddle bags with us. If anything goes wrong an we nay make it back. I no want my things or ye box disappearing.” Conall finished dressing.
A knock came at the door, it was the young serving girl with a tray of oat cakes and ale. As if her glare at me was bad enough last night now she just seethed as she looked from Conall still dressing to me still standing with just a sheet around me. Obviously thinking he kept me company in my bed last night. Instead of him seeking hers out.
She put the tray down. Conall strode over to me putting his arm around my shoulder, dropping a quick kiss to my cheek. The girls mouth slumped open before she huffed out the room slamming the door behind her.
I moved away from Conall with a look of stunned annoyance. He had done this deliberately as if to make fun of the poor girl. Not that I thought she didn’t deserve a telling off for her behaviour. Still, Conall’s smirk said that he enjoyed fluffing the girl’s feathers.
“What was that all about?” I bit out.
He shrugged. “Growing up can be hard at times, lessons need ta be learned.”
“Lessons, you were having fun with the poor girl.”
“Ye did no think she was a poor girl last night, when she invited me to her room.”
“I didn’t think anything about her whether she invited you or not to her room.’
“Aye ye did, I saw how ye seethed when I told ye about the invite. I could see it in your eyes.” Conall smirked as he took a pewter of ale, drank it down and collected the saddlebags off the floor. “I’ll go get the horses saddled. When ye are ready I’ll meet ye at the stables.” He grabbed a couple of the oat cakes before leaving.
Of all the arrogant, conceited…arghh. I grumbled, flinging the sheet on the bed. Then again, when he kissed me on the cheek I should have slapped him, but I hadn’t moved. I had accepted it as if it was a natural thing for Conall to do. I sat on the bed to pull my boots on. I was just as bad as he was, damn.
When I finished dressing I downed some of the ale, it was bitter and awful but there was no drinking water in the room, and I wasn’t sure how long we would be riding before hopefully coming across a spring or brook.
Shoving an oat cake in my mouth and pushing another into the pocket of my pants I collected Abbey and headed to the yard. Glad that I hadn’t bumped into the girl on my way out. I had had enough of her searing looks, the mood I was in I would most likely poke her eyes out.
Conall was standing outside the stable handing over coins to the stable boy. Both horses saddled. It was then that I noticed he was holding Abbey’s brace. “Conall why do you have the brace?”
“It is aboot time ye rode on ye own. Ye will need to be wearing yer crossbow, should we happen ta come across any Brollachans.” He didn’t want Morgan to be without her crossbow, if anything should happen or if they were attacked on their journey the lass could at least defend herself.
After seeing her shoot her crossbow he had no doubts she could do so. If he was being truthful, the lass was a better shot with a crossbow than him, not that he would consider telling her such.
“Ok.” well this should be fun. Not. I was not at all confident riding a horse by myself. It was one thing to sit in front of Conall. To ride on my own, I was seriously nervous. ’What if I fall off?” Conall just huffed leading the horse towards me. There was something though, in the way Conall had said I was riding my own horse, that bothered me. He appeared to be nervous and wondered if it had anything to do with what happened last night.
“Ere lass.” he said beckoning me to him. He removed my cloak and began strapping the brace on. The stable boy looked on, eyes as wide as dishes, giving me a derisive stare. Obviously not used to seeing women in trews.
Conall dropped Abbey into the brace and made sure she was well attached. Then he attached the quiver of bolts to the side of my belt, before pushing the cloak down into one of the saddle bags.
“This ere is Flora.” he said motioning to the horse that had been tied to the rear of his. I’ve no introduced ye to her before, but seeing as ye will be riding her it seems ye ought to ken her name.” he ran his hand down Flora’s nose. Conall lifted me into the saddle and put my feet into the stirrups.
“Are you sure about this?” I asked nervously.
“Aye lass ye need to ride and now is as good a time as any. Flora will take care of ye.”
“How do I make her go?” I really should have paid more attention to the way he rode his own horse, especially with me sitting in front of him.
Conall gave me a bothered look. “Just nudge her gently with ye feet. Ye don’t have to worry much she will follow Torq ere anyways. She’s a gentle soul is Flora.” Conall continued to instruct me on holding the reins, making a point of not pulling on them, lest I end up head first on the ground.
I leaned over Flora and rubbed her neck. “We are going to be good friends Flora, you and I. Be gentle with me now.” I cooed to her. Conall walked to his horse with a smile shaking his head.
We walked the horses for some distance before he took Torq into a trot. Flora followed. We were heading south past the ruin we had visited with the Cailleach. Trotting had my bum banging up and down on the saddle. A wholly unpleasant sensation and one I am sure would be the result of a sore bum when I eventually get down.
When Conall broke his horse into a canter I was terrified hanging onto the reins without trying to pull the horse to a stop. Should I pull too hard, and end up going over the front of her, as he had warned. However, it didn’t take too long before I began to settle down into the ride. No nudging Flora with my feet as she followed Torq without question.
Conall didn’t tell Morgan why she had to ride her own horse. He let her think that it was about time she did, which it was, but it wasn’t the truth. He wasn’t sure if he could handle another day of her sitting so close. Especially after the kiss last night. He shook his head thinking about it. It wasn’t much of a kiss, but he had managed to stop himself before it became more. Ending with him simply brushing his lips past her.
The small incident with the maid this morning was more to rile Morgan up. Pay back he thought smiling to himself. He had though seen something in her eyes last night when he told her about the invite, and he was sure it was a touch of jealousy.
When he glanced over to her as he had almost every five minutes, just to make sure she was handling riding Flora well. He couldn’t help but think how beautiful she was. He also enjoyed watching her face blush when she was embarrassed or had her ire up.
Stopping at midday near a stream to water the horses Conall handed me some dry biscuits and a flask of scotch. I waved him off much preferring to drink water from the stream. I was amazed by the fact that most drank scotch instead of water. Though I also knew that water couldn’t be kept for too long, with there being no refrigerators in this century. It was a wonder though that most didn’t walk around half drunk most of the time, from how much they drank it.
Sitting I looked around it was a lovely spot, quiet with the tweets of birds. The air was not particularly warm, but not too cold either. Scots pines ran along part of the bank. I thought I had done well riding this day on my own. Except for the soreness my body was enduring, and the ache in my butt. I was tempted to give it a good rub but the comments I might receive from Conall put a stop to that thought.
I sat down under a tree to eat the biscuits. I had only been there a few minutes when I heard a noise behind a bush not ten feet away. It sounded like a whimper. The sort a dog makes when it’s in pain. Conall jumped pulling a dirk from his boot and stepped slowly towards the sound.
Edging around the bush he came to a stop, then took a step back motioning with his hand for me to stay where I was.
The whimpering grew louder. I couldn’t hold back. It sounded as if something was in a great deal of pain. Coming up behind Conall I wanted to see what he was looking at.